By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – The total value of Idaho agricultural exports increased 6 percent in 2017, according to USDA data that became available in October.
More timely Census Bureau data shows the total value of Idaho farm product exports rose 4 percent through the fist three quarters of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.
The USDA farm export data for states is released almost 10 months into the next year and is more comprehensive, while the Census Bureau farm export data is released quarterly but doesn’t capture all of the state’s agricultural exports.
The Census Bureau data is more timely but doesn’t capture Idaho farm products that moved to another state before being shipped overseas.
However, both sets of data show that Idaho farm exports are ticking up since 2017 after declining in 2016 and 2015. Idaho set records for farm exports from 2011-2014 before they decreased the next two years.
According to USDA, the total value of Idaho farm exports in 2017 was $1.99 billion, up 6 percent from 2016.
The Census Bureau data shows that Idaho farm product exports through the first nine months of 2018 totaled $634 million, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2017.
“The trend is along the same lines with both sets of data,” said Laura Johnson, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s marketing division.
The increases happened despite some challenges posed by retaliatory tariffs imposed on some U.S. farm products by some of the United States’ main trading partners.
Despite the retaliatory tariffs, there are still a lot of market opportunities for Idaho farm products around the world, Johnson said.
“There are increased headwinds in some countries, such as China, but there are other markets that have good growth prospects for us, such as Taiwan and Southeast Asia,” she said.
Both the 2017 and 2018 increases were led by dairy, Idaho’s No. 1 farm commodity in terms of farm cash receipts.
The USDA data shows that Idaho dairy product exports totaled $356 million in 2017, up 11 percent from 2016’s $320 million total. The Census Bureau data show that Idaho dairy product exports through the first nine months of 2018 totaled $163 million, up 20 percent from the same period in 2017.
Total U.S. dairy exports hit $5.4 billion in 2017, up 15 percent from 2016.
Idaho Dairymen’s Association Executive Director Rick Naerebout said the dairy export picture would be even better if the domestic industry wasn’t facing retaliatory tariffs in some major markets.
“We still have a robust export market, it’s just being stifled by the tariffs right now,” he said.
For example, there has been a 20 percent decrease this year in U.S. cheese exports to Mexico, which is the top export market for U.S. cheese and imposed a 20 percent tariff on U.S. cheese earlier this year.
“Losing that 20 percent is a big deal,” Naerebout said.
The Census Bureau data show that Canada remained the top destination for Idaho farm exports through the first three quarters of 2018, as $186 million worth of farm products from the Gem State were sold there during that period, a 12 percent increase over the same period in 2017.
Mexico remained in the No. 2 spot at $123 million, a 4 percent increase over 2017, and China was third at $41 million, an increase of 0.14 percent.
Australia jumped into the top 10 in a big way at $30 million, an 83 percent increase over 2017. Seventy-six percent of the Idaho farm products sold there were dairy products and 92 percent of those were cheese.
The Census Bureau data also show that live animal exports from Idaho soared 140 percent to $24 million through the first three quarters of 2018. Almost all of that total was from dairy steers going to feedlots in Canada.
The USDA data shows that Idaho beef product exports reached a record $179 million in 2017.
Processed vegetable exports, at $296 million, and fresh vegetable exports, at $158 million, also both set records in 2017.
Idaho wheat exports totaled $296 million in 2017, up 10 percent from 2016 but well below the record of $563 million set in 2011.
Exports included in the “feed and other feed grains” category totaled $106 million in 2017, down slightly from $110 million in 2016.
The $1.99 billion total for Idaho farm exports in 2017 was a three-year high but below the record $2.29 billion total in 2013.
According to USDA, Idaho animal product exports totaled $645 million in 2017, up from $594 million in 2016, and plant product exports totaled $1.35 billion, up from $1.28 billion.
Total U.S. farm exports increased 2 percent last year, to $138 billion, according to USDA. That was well below the record $150 billion total in 2011.